Australia blew a strong start with yet another top-order batting collapse in Sydney yesterday, leaving themselves a mountain to climb to stay in the fourth and final Test against India.
When play was abandoned 30 minutes early due to rain, they were 236-6, 386 behind India on the first innings with Peter Handscomb (28) and Pat Cummins (25) fighting a rearguard action after some soft dismissals plunged the hosts into deep trouble.
Australia went to lunch at 122-1, but surrendered soon afterward, losing three wickets for 24 runs, with spinners Ravindra Jadeja (2-62) and Kuldeep Yadav (3-71) doing the damage.
While rookie opener Marcus Harris blazed 79, senior players Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh and skipper Tim Paine all failed to deliver when needed most.
“I got a start and a few of us got a start, but none of us went on to get a big score, so it’s pretty simple to work out what went wrong,” Harris said. “We’re a young group, and we’re trying to work it out and think on our feet, but we’re playing against the No. 1 side in the world, so it’s not like it’s an easy thing to do.”
Despite the task ahead, Harris remained optimistic.
“Obviously 600 is a big score to chase down or get a close deficit, but I think the more time we can occupy the crease, you never know what can happen,” he said.
India took a stranglehold on the match over the opening two days, compiling a huge 622-7 declared on the back of centuries from Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant.
They lead 2-1 after victories in Adelaide and Melbourne, and are closing in on a historic first-ever Test series win since they first toured Australia in 1947-1948.
Yadav said India’s fielding and catching practice was paying off.
“I feel like we are the best side in the world now when it comes to fielding,” he said.
Skipper Virat Kohli’s declaration left Khawaja and Harris to face 10 nervous overs before stumps on Friday, when they crawled to 24 without loss. Khawaja (27) was dropped on zero, but failed to make the most of his second life.
So far, none of Australia’s batsmen have reached three figures over the four Tests, with Harris’ 79 the highest anyone has scored. In contrast, India have had a field day, compiling five centuries.